VATICAN: ‘May you always be missionary disciples,’ Pope Francis to Nigerian Catholic Community of Rome on Jubilee Day

By Paschal Norbert

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2024 (CISA) – On the occasion to mark 25 years of the presence of the Nigerian Catholic Community in Rome, the Holy Father in an audience with the members expressed gratitude to the community for accompanying many young people and prayed for security and posterity in Nigeria.

In his March 25 address to the community, the Holy Father reflected on: gratitude, richness in diversity and dialogue, which he said were the three elements vital for the Nigerian Catholic Community of Rome.

Pope Francis thanked the members for their continued witness of the Gospel of Christ and lauded the thriving vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life among young people in Nigeria.

“I join you as well in thanksgiving to Almighty God for the numerous young people from Nigeria who have heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood and the consecrated life and have responded with generosity, humility and perseverance. Some are among you here, young priests and young sisters. Indeed, each follower of Jesus, according to his or her particular vocation, is entrusted with the responsibility of serving God and neighbour in love, making Christ present in the lives of our brothers and sisters,” said the pope, adding “May you always be missionary disciples, grateful that the Lord has chosen you to follow him and has sent you forth to proclaim our faith with zeal and contribute to building a more just and humane world.”

The Holy Father challenged the community to embrace the diversity of their cultures, traditions and languages, noting that it is “not a problem but a gift that enriches the fabric of both the Church and the larger society and allows you to promote the values of mutual understanding and coexistence.”

Pope meeting the Nigerian Catholic Community at Paul VI Audience Hall alongside, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, Section for First Evangelization and the New Particular Churches.
The pope being presented with gifts.

“It is my hope that your community here in Rome, in welcoming and accompanying the Nigerian faithful and other believers, will always resemble a great and inclusive family in which all can use their different gifts and talents, that are fruits of the Holy Spirit, to support and strengthen one another in moments of joy and sorrow, success and difficulty. By doing so, you will be able to sow the seeds of social friendship and concord for both present and future generations,” he said.

In appealing to the community to broaden itself and become universal, he warned against “being closed in,” in what he termed as ‘tribal isolation’, which is not communal.

The pope reiterated, “Community yes, tribe no. This is very important. And it applies to all of us, to everyone, each according to his or her position. Universality does not mean locking oneself into one’s own culture. True, one’s own culture is a gift, yet not to close it off, but to give it, to offer it. Universal, universality.”

Acknowledging the economic and insecurity hardships that the people in Nigeria face, Pope Francis urged for dialogue with ‘open hearts’ across the board in the country; from the people to the Church, to the politicians and warring parties.

He appealed for reconciliation among the people to ease the burdens of the poor and those most in need in society.

“Sadly, many regions of the world are experiencing conflict and suffering, and Nigeria, too, is living through a period of hardship. In assuring you of my prayers for the security, unity and spiritual and economic progress of your nation, I also invite everyone to foster dialogue and listen to one another with open hearts, excluding no one at the political, social and religious levels. Integrating, dialoguing, universalizing, and always starting from one’s own identity,” said the Holy Father.